Local dog makes bad.
May 26, 2015 1:01 PM   Subscribe

My idiot dog [file photo of idiot dog] has started barking when I leave the house. His bark is LOUD. Like, super loud. This is unacceptable. I live in an apartment and there are innocent people involved who don't deserve this.

Truman is an unusually quiet dog and generally never barks. He only barks when he's playing aggressively, and I never encourage it. If he barks while we're playing, play immediately stops. He never barks at any other time. Whines a lot but barking is just not his style. Until recently.

I've been home all day these last few months, and I guess he's just gotten used to me always being around. I've noticed him starting to have separation anxiety when I leave (for instance, he sobs whenever he sees me put on a bra), but I'm pretty sure the barking has only started happening very recently. (This isn't a situation where I can just go directly ask my neighbors to let me know when there's a problem because they don't speak English and are way too accommodating and kind to ever say anything.)

I left for 20 minutes today to run to the store. Dog was quiet until I was out of the building and on the street, and then I heard him start barking. Came back and he was still barking (I could hear him from the street, so it's not like he heard my keys jingle and started up). Maybe there was a pause in the middle, I do not know. I come back inside and he's like hihihihihiI'madogdidyoumissme for about 30 seconds then happily walks away and curls up to snooze or chews on a nylabone like I'm the least interesting thing. I think that's a pretty good indication that this is stress barking simply because I'm not there and not caused by any other stimulus.


Complication: dog is not food motivated. Dog is attention motivated. I've mixed up his schedule some to see if it helps him any, like taking him for a long walk immediately before I leave or distracting him with cheese, but it doesn't seem to matter at all. Picking him up and dancing with him has helped with the sobbing when I'm in the leaving process but it doesn't seem to do anything for the barking. Help.
posted by phunniemee to Pets & Animals (27 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I've heard some people have had success teaching their dog "speak" so that they'll bark on command. Then they have an easier time teaching "quiet."

Once you've gotten that far, I think you could get ready to leave. Have him "speak" and then tell him "quiet" and leave him with a treat (a special chew toy or stuffed kong maybe?). Start by closing the door and then coming back in and then start slowly extending the time.

You should also do the same things you do to get ready to leave at the same time on days that you don't have to go anywhere. You want to disconnect as many of your "leaving" routines from the actual leaving as you can. If you always leave after putting on a bra, putting on a bra because a signal that you're leaving (same with putting on shoes or a coat) so if you sometimes do those same things and then DON'T leave they just get added to the list of other weird things that humans do for no describable reason.
posted by VTX at 1:09 PM on May 26, 2015 [2 favorites]

I've seen trainers deal with this by having the owner step out of the apartment for longer and longer bits of time, but just stepping away from the door. Then you wait until he stops barking and step back in the door immediately when it happens. So it's not the barking that gets you back, it's the quiet. It takes a bunch of practice trials, though.
posted by goggie at 1:11 PM on May 26, 2015 [17 favorites]

This sounds tough. The first thing I'd do is get a cheapie cam app to fully confirm what he's doing when you're not there. I use CamSource which I leave my iMac on and check on my phone. I think the cure depends very much on a full picture of what he does when you leave.

My dog has separation anxiety but is also a greedy little shit so our solution is he only gets meals in a Kong when we leave. Turned him from ohmygodwhereareyougoingwhyyyyyy to getoutgetoutjustleavealready.
posted by bimbam at 1:30 PM on May 26, 2015 [4 favorites]

Would this be called Separation Anxiety?

Maybe this guy Ceasar knows his stuff.
Another article.
Maybe a Thundershirt?

I am not a dog owner by any means, but I have seen dog owners in my neighborhood, which has a Holiday Inn Express nearby.
posted by Major Matt Mason Dixon at 1:33 PM on May 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

Poor Truman. Would crating be an option? My dog has severe separation anxiety and the only thing that's worked to alleviate it has been steady crating whenever I am out of the house. I thought it was cruel and was resistant to it for months until I finally caved in the face of no other options and his anxiety barking stopped within two weeks of the crate being introduced. A Thundershirt helped too.

It's notable that you say you mixed up the schedule to see if it would help some. Odds are, it hurt. Dogs are creatures of habit. If you've been home most of the day for a while and are now going out again, it's shaking up his little world. Some consistency would probably help a lot.
posted by juniperesque at 1:34 PM on May 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm going to paraphrase my advice from a previous post because the method really did work. My little rescue dog had barked so much the neighbors complained. Here's what I did:
Leave him alone for three minutes. If he stays quiet, come back in after three minutes and reward and praise him. Then, turn right back around and go back out for five minutes. Come back. If he's quiet, reward him and praise him. Turn around and stay out for eight. Return and reward. Ten. Fifteen. 20. 30. 45. An hour. Two hours. Three. Four. Always with returns and rewards. If he starts freaking out at ANY point, start back again at three minutes.

Devote a whole day to this, increasing your time away each time. Always start over at three if he fails. Use super-bonus-reward treats for this.

(This is how I stopped my sweet but very anxious rescue dog to stop barking when I left the house. She barked at 45 and we started again at three, five, eight. She never barked again.)
posted by mochapickle at 1:38 PM on May 26, 2015 [18 favorites]

One thing that I have heard is that you should try to make it not a big deal when you leave the house and when you come home.
ie. Don't say goodbye to your dog right before you step out the door, and don't give your dog lots of attention as soon as you return.

After a quick google search, this guide came up, which seems to be pretty comprehensive.
posted by kinddieserzeit at 1:39 PM on May 26, 2015

Bark collar.

My dog is a never-barker, too... unless someone he didn't know showed up and just walked in the house, or rang the doorbell. (He has something against doorbells.)

Or at least, he was, til we moved... then he turned into a bark at EVERYTHING while we're gone dog. (He's rarely alone - maybe a few hours once or twice a week.)

We resorted to a bark collar because he was driving our one near-neighbors - who work in their garden and so are visible from our windows - absolutely batshit. It only goes on him if no one at all is home.

I think the bark collar may have zapped him a whole two or three times. (We'd rang the doorbell to try it.) After that, silence. If the collar is on him, he does not bark. He pouts, then plays with the cat or naps. It hasn't had working batteries in a couple of years... but he learned that when the collar is on, it's NO BARK time.

He'll still energetically freak out if someone he doesn't know walks in... but he's allowed to do that.
posted by stormyteal at 1:48 PM on May 26, 2015 [2 favorites]

My dog was like this when we first got him, but he was still under a year old at that time and new to our apartment, so I'm not sure this will work with Truman.
We didn't crate him, but we did turn our bedroom into his "den." When we left, he got placed on the bed (he had to be carried, since he went into the "gut me" posture as soon as it became clear that he wasn't going with us), with his water dish nearby and we tore up a beggin' strip and hid the pieces around the room (really just flung the pieces into corners and on the bedspread.). When we left, we closed the bedroom door. The treat search kept him busy and distracted him long enough for us to leave.
We also, like goggie and mochapickle said, took a few short trips down the hall at odd times and came right back - 2 minutes, 5 minutes - so that he knew it wasn't always going to be hours.
Those two things in tandem worked and after about a week, he quit barking when we left, iirc.
Hopefully, Truman will just take a little while to adjust to your new schedule and to realize he can't train you to stay home! But it's good to stop it before it becomes a habit or a reflex.
posted by hiker U. at 1:49 PM on May 26, 2015

Poor Truman. Would crating be an option? My dog has severe separation anxiety and the only thing that's worked to alleviate it has been steady crating whenever I am out of the house. I thought it was cruel and was resistant to it for months until I finally caved in the face of no other options and his anxiety barking stopped within two weeks of the crate being introduced.

This was the solution that worked for my neighbor. She started with the crate and then transitioned to just keeping her dog in the kitchen with a baby gate; she will try to leave the gate open next - we'll see what happens. She tried the approach mochapickle suggested, and it didn't work, so if that fails for you, maybe try the crate. As someone who works from home a lot, I'm very grateful to my neighbor for doing this, and kudos to you, phunniemee, for also being an awesome neighbor.
posted by bluefly at 1:59 PM on May 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

Two of our three dogs bark like crazy whenever we leave but seem to quiet down after about 15-20 minutes (we tested this by just walking over to the neighbor's house). I think it is a characteristic of the mini Schnauzer as a breed, plus the fact that my wife works from home and is therefore almost always home with them. They sometimes cry a little when I leave the house (especially when they know I'll be gone for several hours -- such as for work) but they don't bark in this case.

Fortunately, we live in a house in a rural area that sits at the center of a 3 acre plot of land. Unfortunately, I have on occasion heard them barking in excitement and watching me from the window when I pull up and stop to get the mail when I get home from work (about 400 feet from the house at the end of the driveway), so I know it's possible for our neighbors to hear them. Even though my next door neighbor says she never hears the dogs, I'm convinced she is saying that to be polite (and because she loves our dogs and loves when they come to visit and play with her dog).

We have tried not making a big deal out of us leaving. We have tried subscribing to Dog TV and leaving that on when we leave, watching with them for several minutes before we do. We have tried those Doggie Be Calm type treats of various different brands. We have tried very vigorous, active play with them before we leave ("a tired dog is a good dog"). We've tried bribing them with food and treats, leaving for short (and then increasingly longer) periods and rewarding them when they do not bark. We've tried crating them; that only makes them more even more anxious. My wife and I do not want to use a bark collar because we don't want to hurt the dogs. Nothing seems to work.

The ONLY thing that seems to work is if one of us stays home while the other goes wherever. That's not an option for you since I seem to remember that you live alone. That or 1/2 a Benadryl tablet, which made my boy fall asleep for a few hours (we discovered this by accident after our vet suggested it to relieve itching from poison ivy) -- but we don't want to needlessly medicate / sedate them, of course.

Interestingly enough is this barking behavior when we leave the house seems to only happen with two of our dogs. My boy will start barking, then after a few seconds, one of my girls will go "oh boy he is barking this is so exciting so I must bark too! bark bark bark bark bark!" My other girl will go off and lay in the corner and it just seems like she is thinking "oh will you two just SHUT UP already!" If my boy does not start barking, my one girl will not start barking either.

I'd like to get a "nanny cam" setup to see what exactly they do when we're gone. We've left for as long as 7-8 hours, and the worst we found was a puddle of pee; no furniture is destroyed, nothing is even moved but their toys. I can live with the barking but I would like to get it under control because sometimes we travel with them and stay in dog-friendly hotels.
posted by tckma at 2:07 PM on May 26, 2015

Honestly I'd check with your neighbours or set up a webcam, dogs have way better hearing than people give them credit for, my dogs can hear my husbands car turn into our street from a good easily 250m away though we live in a quiet neighbourhood. Don't be sure your dog didn't hear your steps or see or smell you.

With our separation anxiety prone dog we have found the best treatment was routine, routine, routine. My dogs get a super high value hard to eat quickly treat like a PB stuffed kong only when we are leaving them home alone, this has actually made them look forward to us going away. We also leave the TV on to help drown out any outside stimulus that might set off barking. Every thing about us getting ready to go out is exactly the same every time, get my bag, put on shoes give the treat as I am backing out the door.

We started with leaving for 5 minutes & then returning & slowly increased the times we, can now go up to 6 hours without any problems. Coming home is the same thing, routine, routine routine as my dog would get too over stimulated by my return, so quietly come in the house, quietly greet the dogs & put my things away, when they have calmed down, then & only then sit on the couch & pat them. How you return home is just as important as how you leave, if you make your return a huge event they look forward too they will build up anxiety waiting for it.

The best way to cure separation anxiety is to go & come back calmly often for slowly increasing lengths of time.
posted by wwax at 2:09 PM on May 26, 2015

Where is he when you're not at home? Our own idiot dog is permanently on Opposite Day so bark collars aggravated her into more barking and crating aggravated her into more barking. Leaving her free run of the house, OTOH, fixed the barking.
posted by griphus at 2:10 PM on May 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

Also, downloading Audacity and leaving it recording when you're not home can give you an idea of when and how long he's barking so you can see if there's any patterns.
posted by griphus at 2:11 PM on May 26, 2015

There are also bark collars that use a spray of water or citronella as a more humane option than a shock bark collar. I have seen them in action and they were effective - the dog shuts up and looks around confused trying to find out where the water came from.
posted by Tanizaki at 2:31 PM on May 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

I adopted (unknowingly) a dog with separation anxiety. He wasn't a barker he was a chewer (pillows, magazines, etc.). What worked for him was a very reliable routine that included (rain or shine.- no excuses) A GOOD LONG WALK EVERY SINGLE MORNING.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 2:31 PM on May 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

A good long walk is a great idea; tired dog has less energy for barking. And I'd do lots of leaving and lots of fake leaving. Put on bra, shoes, grab keys, go sit and read. Put on bra, shoes, grab keys, leave for 10 minutes. or 2 hours. Maybe also talk to the vet about valium to help the very cute dog get through the 1st month. I always tell my dog See later, be good. so he knows I'm leaving, not just going to do yard work.
posted by theora55 at 2:55 PM on May 26, 2015

A citronella collar worked wonders for Archie, and me not making a big deal out of leaving or coming home. I feed him breakfast or give him a treat in his crate when I leave and his anxiety is pretty much gone- he now gets irritated if I don't leave fast enough in the mornings because he wants breakfast. Dr. Patricia McConnell's pamphlet on separation anxiety helped a lot.
posted by shazaam at 3:08 PM on May 26, 2015

Nthing citronella bark collar!
posted by cecic at 4:30 PM on May 26, 2015

I have entirely no advice but I had to say that I love that picture! He looks guilty.
posted by clone boulevard at 5:27 PM on May 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I have entirely no advice but I had to say that I love that picture! He looks guilty.

He was wet and I made him sit in the back of the car instead of in the front seat with me. You're seeing the heartbreak of betrayal.

A lot of great answers here! I have a lot of things to try out.
posted by phunniemee at 5:30 PM on May 26, 2015 [3 favorites]

I know you said he's not food motivated, but is there anything extra special that would motivate him? My dog gets her extra special treat (a small handful of cat food kibble- dogs are weird too) *only* when I leave. And it gets scattered so she has to take time, sniffing around to make sure she gets every single piece. After about a week of this, she went from depressed when she'd see me getting dressed to trying to shove me out the door.
posted by dogmom at 7:16 PM on May 26, 2015

Crating works for my mum's dog. Doggie is quite anxious and has objections to people walking, driving or god forbid, parking outside our house. If she's crated she kind of accepts it as nap time and someone else on duty rather than feeling like she has to defend us all from the horrors of people visiting our neighbours or nearby shops.

Sobbing at you putting on a bra struck me as particularly hilarious :-) Truman is adorable.
posted by kitten magic at 7:42 PM on May 26, 2015

This is my dog, and it's the one reason I really want a house. She seems to do better in her crate than free range. She also does better the more routine and common my absences are, for some reason. Like if I leave her to go to work and have been doing this regularly, she does better than if I go grocery shopping on a weekend, or than if it's been a holiday and she's not used to me leaving for work. She gets used to the routine eventually.
posted by J. Wilson at 7:46 PM on May 26, 2015

My dog, who was previously totally fine when we left the house, started doing the same thing recently. Turned out we were actually causing the problem.

After weeks of trying different things, we couldn't figure out what was going on. Finally the only thing that worked was turning off the radio that we normally left on (to keep him company, of course). That seemed weird to us, because the radio was a longstanding part of our routine.

We finally realized that the day before the barking started, the old shitty clock radio we were using had broken so we got a new shitty clock radio. Well the new one must have had some weird sound or frequency that bothered his sensitive little ears. We felt awful!

Anyways, can you brainstorm and see if there is anything at all that has possibly changed? Something that doesn't seem different to you, but could be annoying to the pup?

Also, as mentioned above, Audacity is great for monitoring. It's free, and it shows you a visual graph so you can just quickly scan the day to see how noisy he was.
posted by radioamy at 9:40 AM on May 27, 2015

Adaptil is the equivalent of Feliway for dogs.
posted by brujita at 10:15 PM on May 27, 2015

Response by poster: I've been working on leaving him for short, increasing amounts of time and rewarding him when he's quiet per mochapickle's advice and we've made a lot of progress. I've noticed him being a lot calmer, and it appears that his barking has stopped (at least through about 15 minutes, which is about how long I have patience to sit in a hot car and wait while listening). The only downside is the increased amount of farting from all the extra special treats. So much farting.
posted by phunniemee at 9:36 AM on June 8, 2015 [4 favorites]

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